The Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream store that opened in Old Bellevue last July was halfway through construction when the pandemic hit.

But its completion proved instrumental to helping the company weather the downturn, its founder and CEO said in a video chat last week with the Bellevue Downtown Association (BDA).

“We make most of our wholesale product here in Bellevue and that has really helped us diversify and get through 2020, and it’s going to be a great way for us to sort of come back from the pandemic, too,” Molly Moon Neitzel said in the latest Downtown Talks conversation with BDA President Patrick Bannon.

The Seattle-based chain of nine stores had already begun selling ice cream pints in two regional grocery chains when the pandemic hit. The Bellevue opening allowed Molly Moon’s to triple the number of grocery stores it could supply to 120.

Neitzel also gave a shout-out to Metropolitan Market and PCC Community Markets for choosing to carry Molly Moon after the pandemic forced Neitzel to lay off 96 people by mid-March, leaving just a handful of people on the payroll. (All have since been rehired, except one who started their own business.)

“Those two local grocery partners absolutely saved my company for the spring,” she told Bannon.

Neitzel said government stimulus from the CARES Act early last year and additional aid approved in December also were critical to survival as she talked about the pandemic’s devastating effect on small businesses everywhere.

“We’re going to be OK, but I can’t articulate how hard it’s been,” she said of managing through the global health crisis.

Molly Moon’s had opened a small walk-up location in Old Bellevue in July 2019 that quickly became a hit, she said, reflecting on part of the impetus for opening the flagship location around the corner a year later to supply the walkup, fuel wholesale production, and capture more retail foot traffic. Neitzel moved to Seattle in 2001, and estimated that she hadn’t been to Bellevue more than a handful of times before she opened the walk-up. She quickly fell in love with Old Bellevue and its vibe, she said.

Neitzel enjoys Molly Moon’s being part of the fabric of neighborhoods and business districts, and likes her stores to be multigenerational community gathering places for anyone to enjoy a treat.

Asked by Bannon what the future for Molly Moon’s holds, Neitzel seemed to leave the door open to more expansion.

“There are a lot of neighborhoods that don’t have a Molly Moon’s yet,” she said.